Sometimes government decisions leave people both bewildered and bemused. A few days ago, the Punjab government announced that the defunct union councils would discontinue public services from May 1. The Punjab Local Government and Community Development Department has intimated all deputy commissioners, designated as the heads of District Transition Teams of their districts, in this connection through a notification. The notification, inter alia, said the services rendered by the union councils up to April 30 this year would be subject to ‘audit and administrative scrutiny’. This decision, seen together with a series of earlier decisions relating to local governments, raises intriguing questions.
CM Usman Buzdar deferred the local body elections due to the situation in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In May 2019, the Local Government system, constituted under the Punjab Local Government Act of 2013, was replaced by the Punjab Local Government Act of 2019, and under the new law, all local governments were dissolved and elected representatives were sent packing. Around 33 petitions have been filed in the Lahore High Court challenging the dissolution of the local bodies, but it has not conducted hearings for the past several months. The latest decision would add to the problems of the people besides causing consternation. Also, there are reports the next LG elections in Punjab would be held on non-party basis.
The government has come in for scathing criticism from the opposition. The decision is raising intriguing questions about the intentions of the government especially because of the timing and circumstances surrounding it. Observers say it shows things are not going smoothly for the PTI government. Several political bigwigs are facing NAB cases. They are likely making behind-the-scenes moves to influence the course of politics to get out of their predicament. There is the ‘political loneliness and idleness’ of the once ‘active’ Shehbaz Sharif. The decision about UCs and the idea of ‘Tiger Force’ indicate that all is not well.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2020.
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